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03/23/07 8:28 PM ET

Notes: Patterson nearly set for opener

Injured Nats working way back; Zimmerman seeks extension

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander John Patterson pitched in his third exhibition game of the spring, allowing one run in four innings against the Tigers on Friday.

Patterson's only blemish came in the fourth inning, when he gave up a wind-aided home run to Chris Shelton. Patterson also said that he was tired by the fourth inning. He threw 72 pitches and 38 of them were for strikes. Patterson insisted that he will have enough stamina to go longer in his final start of the spring. He is expected to throw between 90-100 pitches and be ready to start the season opener on April 2 against the Marlins at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

"My arm feels great," Patterson said. "I have a lot of life in my arm, which is good. It's getting me pretty excited. My strength feels good. I'm enjoying working out. I'm putting in the work in the weight room."

Patterson will become the second pitcher in Nationals history to start an Opening Day game. Livan Hernandez had the honors the last two years. Patterson said he sometimes thinks more about pitching on Opening Day than what he has to do to be successful in Spring Training.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm thinking about the Marlins' lineup. I'm going to keep my emotions in check. I know it's going to be an anxious day."

Injury report: Outfielder Chris Snelling suffered a left knee contusion in the seventh inning against the Tigers and is listed as day-to-day.

With two outs, Snelling found himself trying to score from second base on a single to center by Kory Casto. Snelling scored, but collided with catcher Steve Torrealba. Snelling got up and was limping noticeably when he walked back to the dugout.

Snelling has a history of left knee problems. It has been surgically repaired seven times.

"I took him out of the game because it's Spring Training," manager Manny Acta said. "We had extra guys there. It's precautionary stuff."

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi said he will be ready for Opening Day, but he is going to miss his Sunday start against the Braves because of a tight right groin. It will be the second consecutive start that he will miss. Simontacchi was scheduled to have a bullpen session on Friday, but it was postponed. He said the groin is about 80 percent healed.

"I'm right there," Simontacchi said. "Maybe in the next couple of days I will get lateral movement. It's just a matter of getting back on the mound and seeing how that goes."

Reliever Luis Ayala, who will be placed on the disabled list, pitched in a Minor League intrasquad game on Friday. He pitched one inning and gave up a run on one hit. Ayala threw 19 pitches. Ayala said he needs to get his arm stronger after having elbow reconstruction surgery last year.

Contract talks: A day after learning that Braves catcher Brian McCann signed a six-year, $27.8 million extension, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said that his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, and the Nationals are still talking about an extension for him. Zimmerman's contract was renewed on March 10 for $400,000.

"It's the same stuff that has been going on all spring," Zimmerman said. "I think [general manager] Jim [Bowden] has made it known that he wants me to be here long-term. I am here for five years, no matter what. We want to get something done, but we are not going to do anything that doesn't make sense for both sides."

Did you know? The Nationals are now 10-11-1 this spring. The 10 victories surpassed last spring's total. In 2006, the Nationals were 9-23.

Coming up: The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium on Saturday to play the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET. Washington right-hander Shawn Hill will face St. Louis right-hander Kip Wells.

Hill has been the Nationals' best starter thus far, giving up two earned runs in 15 innings.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.